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Cambridge Global Challenges


Fossil fuel stocks have long been a safe financial bet. With price rises projected until 2040 and governments prevaricating or rowing back on the Paris Agreement, investor confidence is set to remain high.

However, new research suggests that the momentum behind technological change in the global power and transportation sectors will lead to a dramatic decline in demand for fossil fuels in the near future.

Publishing their findings today in the journal Nature Climate Change, researchers from Cambridge University (UK), Radboud University (NL), the Open University (UK), Macau University, and Cambridge Econometrics, argue that there will be clear economic winners and losers as a consequence.

It is the first time that the evolution of low-carbon technologies has been mapped from historical data and incorporated into ‘integrated assessment modeling’.

“Until now, observers mostly paid attention to the likely effectiveness of climate policies, but not to the ongoing and effectively irreversible technological transition,” said Dr Jean-François Mercure, study lead author from Cambridge University’s Centre for Environment, Energy and Natural Resource Governance (C-EENRG) and Radboud University.

Prof Jorge Viñuales, study co-author from Cambridge University and founder of C-EENRG, said: “Our analysis suggests that, contrary to investor expectations, the stranding of fossil fuels assets may happen even without new climate policies. This suggests a carbon bubble is forming and it is likely to burst.”


For a summary please see the Cambridge University Research News website; the full study can be accessed in Nature Climate Change.


Cambridge Global Challenges is a Strategic Research Initiative of the University of Cambridge that aims to enhance the contribution of its research towards addressing global challenges and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

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